Tracy Burr Strong died on May 11th. Tracy was one of the greatest contemporary political theorists with an extraordinary range. His first book, Friedrich Nietzsche and the Politics of Transfiguration (1975) is still read widely as both a contribution to Nietzsche studies and to political thinking more broadly. His latest book, Learning One’s Native Tongue, argues that the essence of American citizenship is not simply a matter of who can vote or whom has rights.
There is a widespread misconception that we are seeing a threat to democracy. More rightly, we are witnessing a democratic revolt against liberal-constitutional-limited government. The question, then, is how liberal-constitutional republics should react to threats from populist democratic movements. The general view at least in the United States is that constitutional democracies allow its critics—even its existential critics—the benefit of freedom of speech.
Hannah Arendt was skeptical of social science theories. Theorists, or problem solvers as she often referred to them, are people of “great self-confidence.” They are confident in the education and intelligence and they “pride themselves on ‘rational.’” Dedicated to rationality, they “were indeed to a rather frightening degree above ‘sentimentality’ and in love with ‘theory...'"
In what seems a fairly usual occurrence, two journalists and two professors were fired or prosecuted this week for running afoul of mainstream opinions or, in Poland, legally prohibited opinions. John McWhorter argues that firing a New York Times reporter for using the N-word to refer to the N-word and not as a slur obfuscates the difference between a slur and a taboo. Ben Cohen reports on the prosecution of Professors Barbara Engelking and Jan Grabowski in Poland.
The latest issue of Poetry Magazine, guested edited by poets Tara Betts and Joshua Bennett, focuses on work written by currently and formerly incarcerated poets, bringing a systematically suppressed chorus of voices to the forefront of the poetry community’s publishing landscape. Editor Tara Betts writes in her introduction to the issue, “The contributors, who are often no longer perceived as people in the non-incarcerated world, are indeed human.
One repeated argument against apps that allow for encryption and privacy is that those who have nothing to hide should not worry about the loss of privacy. But who is it that has nothing to hide? The human heart and mind is a factory of fantasies that remind each of us of the darkness that lurks within us.
Jeffrey Goldfarb writes that his 2006 book The Politics of Small Things was inspired by Hannah Arendt’s idea that “politics is about people meeting each other as equals in their differences, speaking and acting together.” In his Democracy Seminar, Goldfarb invites activists to speak about the ways they act together.
Jennifer Senior writes that the reason Congress is out of touch is not that it has too many millionaires, but that it is filled with people with too many academic credentials. This is a fact central to the argument for sortition—the selection of representatives by lot rather than by election. The Arendt Center held a webinar asking the question of whether it would be good to bring randomly selected citizens into the legislative process in October.
I recently wrote about a study by Shaylyn Romney Garrett and Robert D. Putnam who argue that—contrary to popular expectations—the years in which black Americans performed best on metrics of economic and social prosperity were before the Civil Rights Movement; Garrett and Putnam show that since the 1970s, black achievement has stagnated. How does this fact require that we reassess both the Civil Rights Movement and the new Movement for Black Lives?
In a common narrative, racial progress in the United States was slow or non-existent until the Civil Rights Movement, at which time there was a sustained improvement in racial equality. Shaylyn Romney Garrett and Robert D. Putnam argue that this view is not born out by facts. On the contrary, the years in which black Americans performed best on metrics of economic and social prosperity were before the Civil Rights Movement; since the 1970s, black achievement has stagnated.